Even Lions Know Better Than to Take on This Furious Hippo

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Written by Sharon Parry

Published: March 4, 2024

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Huge hippo charging at three lion brothers in the evening light. Wild animals in the nature habitat. Lions fight against a hippo.
© PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com

A lion vs hippo showdown may seem like an unlikely contest but you would be surprised at just how many clips of this type of encounter can be found online. The clip featured above is a typical situation. The lions are relaxing by the side of a river but are initially not aware that a hippo is approaching. The hippo is the same color as the water, is almost entirely submerged, and is gliding slowly so it is not that easy to spot. Once the hippo gets out of the water, its body language and movements are clearly confrontational. It charges at the lions who do not bother to put up any sort of fight and just run away!

Do Lions Normally Eat Hippos?

Lions are obligate carnivores which means that they must eat other animals to stay alive. On the whole, they are opportunists and will eat whatever they can get hold of. However, they do have seasonal patterns of prey preference and tend to focus on a few key prey species that they become experts at catching!

These big cats are willing to tackle large prey and take considerable personal risks to do so. Because they often hunt as a pride, they are able to overcome animals that are much larger and heavier than they are. That said, there is plenty of documented evidence of lions being badly injured or even killed by animals such as buffalo.

An experienced adult lion could certainly target a hippo calf and this is not unusual. They could also overpower an already injured or elderly hippo. A large healthy adult hippo, however, would be a challenge for even the strongest lion. It is possible that these lions had just eaten as it is common for them to go and drink after a big meal. They may have been too full to be bothered with any hippo confrontations and so they backed off.

Are Hippos Normally Aggressive?

Two huge hippos fighting with each other in the pond, Masai Mara

Hippos can be highly territorial and aggressive.


Hippos are a lot more aggressive and confrontational than most people realize. Males fight with each other for the mating rights to females. They indulge in typical ‘jaw-to-jaw’ sparring. This happens most often when they are crowded together – hippos like their personal space! When they actually come to blows, it involves tusk clashing, rearing, pushing, and slashing. Males are highly territorial and will even push crocodiles out of ‘their’ patch of water!

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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